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August 14, 2015 06:08 PM

Local Business Boasts Apprenticeship Program

Sioux Falls, SD

A shortage of skilled laborers in the United States has President Obama and others turning toward apprenticeships to fill the gaps. A firm with four locations including Sioux Falls already has an in-house program underway.

After working as a mechanic, Josh Olberding wanted to try a new career in plumbing and pipe fitting but he didn't want to be saddled with student loans.

"I know a lot of people that went to school for four years and they come out and they've got $80,000 in debt for school loans. I came out of apprenticeship school with zero debt," Olberding said.

Olberding went through four years of on-the-job training at Midwestern Mechanical. The company's apprenticeship program is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor. Christine Therkildsen is in charge of the training that prepares workers to take a state exam at the end.

"You're ready to have a journeyman's license. You haven't accrued college debt. You have the training and you have the earning potential a college graduate would have," Therkildsen said.

Her passion for apprenticeships is sending her to meetings across the country to discuss the benefits with other businesses. She'll travel to Dallas for a regional event at the end of the month and Washington, D.C. in September.

"I really would love to share some things that have worked for us but then also get some feedback from other corporations or organizations or companies to find out what's working for them and what works with the apprenticeship program so we can make it last and grow," Therkildsen said.

Already a foreman with Midwestern Mechanical, Olberding is glad he took the time to complete 8,000 hours of training as well as classroom time. It's led him to where he is today.

"There's a lot to learn so you're never getting bored. You always have something new you can learn," Olberding said.

Midwestern Mechanical's apprenticeship program trains workers to be journeyman, teachers, foreman, superintendents and estimators.

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